Hong Kong has dropped out of the top 10 most competitive regions in China, according to a research institute whose credibility has been called into question.

The China Institute of City Competitiveness issued a report on Tuesday stating that Hong Kong now ranks 12th in terms of competitiveness among provincial-level divisions in China, dropping six places from last year’s list. The top five now comprise Guangdong Province, Jiangsu Province, Shandong Province, Zhejiang Province and Shanghai.

hong kong competitiveness
The website of China Institute of City Competitiveness.

The organisation advised Hong Kong to reduce “political frictions”, suggesting it learn from the experience of Shenzhen and Shanghai. However, CICC director Gui Qiangfang told Commercial Radio that the territory’s sliding competitiveness is unrelated to 2014’s pro-democracy protests or the debate over electoral reform.

In another report, CICC said it expects Hong Kong’s GDP to be eclipsed by that of Guangzhou and Shenzhen this year.

The credibility of CICC and Gui Qiangfang have been called into question. Stand News reports that Gui obtained his master’s degree from a distance-learning course at an unrecognised university in Hawaii. The report also said that Gui was once fined for false advertising.

In 2013, i-Cable reported that CICC’s research methods were not trusted by academics. It also pointed out obvious mistakes on CICC’s website, including naming a district in the New Territories that does not exist.

CICC claimed in 2013 it sent out questionnaires to members of a chamber of commerce to ask for their opinions on economic development as part of the CICC’s research. But i-Cable found the largest shareholder of the chamber of commerce in question shared an address with the CICC.

CICC’s website says it was founded in 1998 by scholars and urban development experts from home and abroad. It also claims to have research centres in multiple mainland universities.

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.